"But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth?" 2 Chron. vi.18. It was the wonder of one of the wisest of men, and indeed, considering his infinite highness above the height of heavens, his immense and incomprehensible greatness, that the heaven of heavens cannot contain him, and then the baseness, emptiness, and worthlessness of man, it may be a wonder to the wisest of angels. And what is it, think you, the angels desire to look into, but this incomprehensible mystery of the descent of the Most High to dwell among the lowest and vilest of the creatures? But as Solomon's temple, and these visible symbols of God's presence, were but shadows of things to come, the substance whereof is exhibited under the gospel, so that wonder was but a shadow or type of a greater and more real wonder, or God's dwelling on the earth now. It was the wonder, shall God dwell with man, among the rebellious sons of Adam? But behold a greater wonder since Christ came, God dwelling in man, first personally in the man Christ, in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily, then graciously in the seed of Christ, in man by his Spirit, and this makes men spiritual, if so be the Spirit of Christ dwell in you. You heard of the first indwelling, ver.3. "God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh," the inhabitation of the divine nature in our flesh, which had the likeness of sinful flesh, but without sin, for he sanctified himself for our cause. And truly, this mysterious and wonderful inhabitation is not only a pledge of the other, that God shall dwell in sinful men by his Spirit, but, in order of nature, it hath some influence upon the other, without which God could not have dwelt in us. There is so much distance and disproportion between his Majesty and us, that we could not be well united, but by this intervening, God coming down first a step into the holy nature of the man Christ, that from thence he might go into the sinful nature of other men. Our sinful and rebellious nature behoved to be first sanctified this way, by the personal indwelling of God in our flesh, and this had made an easy passage into sinful us, for his Spirit to dwell in us powerfully and graciously, therefore the Spirit of Christ is said to dwell in us. Christ's Spirit, not only because proceeding from him as from the Father, but particularly, because the inhabitation or operation of the Spirit in us, is the proper result and fruit of that glorious union of our nature with him. He took our flesh, that he might send us his Spirit. And, O what a blessed exchange was this! He came and dwelt in our nature, that so he might dwell in us: he took up a shop, as it were, in our flesh, that he might work in us, and make us again conformed to God.
We shall not cut this asunder into many parts. You see the words contain plainly the very essential definition of a spiritual man, and of a Christian. You find a spiritual man and a Christian equivalent in this verse, that is to say, they are taken for one and the self same thing, and so they are reciprocal, of equal extent and restraint. Every Christian is one after the Spirit, and whosoever is after the Spirit is a Christian. One of Christ's, and one after the Spirit, is one thing. Now the definition of the Christian is taken from that which really and essentially constitutes him such. He is one in whom the Spirit of Christ dwells, that makes him one after the Spirit, that makes him one of Christ's, because it is the Spirit of Christ. As if you define what a man is, you could not do it better than thus: he is one endowed with a reasonable soul. So the apostle gives you the very soul and form of a Christian, which differenceth from all others. As the soul is to the body to make up a man, so the Spirit of Christ is to the soul and Spirit of a man to make up a Christian, as the absence or presence of the soul makes or unmakes a man, so the absence or presence of this Spirit makes or unmakes a Christian, for you see he makes it reciprocal. If you be Christians, the Spirit dwells in you, but if the Spirit dwell not in you, you are not Christians.
A word then to the first of these, that a Christian and a spiritual man are commensurable one to another. It is true, there are Jews who are not Jews inwardly, but only according to the letter, Rom. ii.28, 29. And so there are Christians so called, who are but so outwardly, and in the letter, who have no more of it but the name and visible standing in the church, but we are speaking of that which is truly that which it is called, whose praise is not of men but of God. The name of a man may be extended to a picture or image, for some outward resemblance it hath of him, but it is not a proper speech, no more is it proper to extend the name of Christians unto the pictures or images of Christians, such as are destitute of this inward life. You may be properly, according to scripture phrase, members of the visible body, but you cannot have that real and blessed relation to Jesus Christ the head, which shall be the source of happiness to all the living members. I wish you would take it so, and flatter yourselves no more with church titles, as if these were sufficient evidences for your salvation. You would all be called Christians, but it fears me you know not many of you the true meaning and signification of that word, the most comfortable sense of it is hid from you. The meaning of it is, that a man is renewed by Christ in the spirit of his mind. As Christ and the Spirit are inseparable, so a Christian and a spiritual nature are not to be found severed. Certainly, the very sound of the name whereby you are called, imports another nature and conversation than is to be found in many; you cannot say, that you have a shadow of spirituality, either in your affections or actions, or that you have any real design and study that way but only to please your flesh, and satisfy the customs of the world. Why do you then usurp the name of Christianity? This is a common sacrilege, to give that which is holy unto dogs. Others give it to you, and you take it to yourselves. But know, that though you please yourselves and others in this, yet without such a renovation of your natures, and such a sincere study to be inwardly and outwardly conformed to the profession and nature of Christianity, you have not your praise of God, and him whom God praises not, and allows not, he cannot bless for ever. I am persuaded there are some who are not only in the letter, but in the Spirit, whose greatest desire and design is to be indeed what they profess, and such is their praise of God and if God praise them now, they shall be made to praise him for ever hereafter; such are allowed to take the name and honourable style of Christianity unto them. You are Christ's nearly interested in him, and if you be Christ's own, he cannot be happy without you, for such was his love, that he would not be happy alone in heaven, but came down to be miserable with us. And now that he is again happy in heaven, certainly he cannot enjoy it long alone, but he must draw up his members unto the fellowship of that glory.
Now the other thing, that which gives even being to a Christian is, the Spirit of Christ dwelling in him. Of this inhabitation, we shall not say so much as the comparison, being strained, will yield, neither expatiate into many notions about it. I wish rather we went home with some desires kindled in us, after such a noble guest as the Holy Spirit is, and that we were begun once to weary of the base and unclean guests that we lodge within us, to our own destruction. That which I said that the Spirit is to a Christian, what the soul is to a man, if well considered, might present the absolute necessity and excellency of this unto your eyes. Consider what a thing the body is without the soul, how defiled and how deformed a piece of dust it is, void of all sense and life, loathsome to look upon.
Truly the soul of man by nature is in no better case till this Spirit enter, it hath no light in it, no life in it, it is a dark dungeon, such as is described, Eph. iv.18, "Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart." You have both in that word darkness and deadness want of that shining light of God in the mind, so that it cannot discern spiritual things that make to our eternal peace. All the plainness and evidence of the gospel, though it did shine as a sun about you, can not make you see or apprehend either your own misery or the way to help it, because your dungeon is within, the most part cannot form any sensible notion of spiritual things, that are duly sounding unto them in the word. The eye of the mind is put out, and if it be darkness, how great is that darkness! Certainly the whole man is without light, and your way and walk must be in the dark, and indeed it appears that it is dark night with many souls because if it were not dark, they could not run out all their speed among pits and snares in the way to destruction. And from this woful defect flows the alienation of the whole soul from the life of God, that primitive light being eclipsed, the soul is separated from the influence of heaven, and as Nebuchadnezzar's soul acted only in a brutal way, when driven out among beasts, so the soul of man, being driven out from the presence of the Lord, may act in a way common to beasts, or in some rational way in things that concern this life, but it is wholly spoiled of that divine life of communion with God. It cannot taste, smell, or savour such things. O! if it were visible unto us, the state or the ruinous soul, we would raise a more bitter lamentation over it than the Jews did over Jerusalem, or the kings and merchants have reason to do over fallen Babylon. Truly, we might bemoan it thus, "How is the faithful city become a harlot! righteousness lodged in it, but now murderers," Isa. i.21. Man was once the dwelling place of princely and divine graces and virtues, the Lord himself was there, and then how comely and beautiful was the soul! But now it is like the desolate cities, in which the beasts of the desert lie and their houses are full of doleful creatures, where owls dwell, and satyrs dance, where wild beasts cry, and dragons in the pleasant places, Isa. xiii.21, 22 and Jer. l.39. So mighty is the fall of the soul of man, as of Babylon, that it may be cried, "It is fallen, and become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird," Rev. xviii.2. All the beasts flock now to it, all the birds of darkness take their lodging in it, since this noble guest left it, and took away the light from it, for the sun hath not shined on it since that day. All unclean affections, all beastly lusts, all earthly desires, all vain cogitations get lodging in this house; the Bethel is become a Bethaven, the house of God become a house of vanity, by the continual repair of vain thoughts, the house of prayer is turned into a den of thieves and robbers. That which was at first created for the pure service and worship of God, is now a receptacle of all the most rebellious and idolatrous thoughts and affections, the heart of every man is become a temple full of idols.
This is the state of it, and worse than can be told you now, judge if there be not need of a better guest than these. O what absolute necessity is there of such a spirit as this, to repair and reform the ruinous spirit of man, to quicken and enlighten the darkened mind of man! Even that Spirit, that made it at first a glorious palace for God, that Spirit that breathed the soul into the former clay, must repair these breaches, and create all again. Now, when the Spirit of Christ enters into this vile ruinous cottage, he repairs it and reforms it, he strikes out lights in the heart, and, by a wonderful eye salve makes the eyes open to see; he creates a new light within, which makes him behold the light shining in the gospel, and behold all things are new, himself new, because now most loathsome and vile the world new, because now appears nothing but vanity in the very perfection of it, and God new, because another majesty, glory, excellency, and beauty shines into the soul than ever it apprehended. And as the Spirit enlightens, so he enlivens this tabernacle or temple, he kindles a holy fire in his affections, which must never go out, it is such as cannot be kindled, if it go out, but by the beams of the sun, as the poets fancied the vestal-fire. The Spirit within the soul is a fire to consume his corruption, to burn up his dross and vanity. Christ comes in like a refiner, with the fire of the Spirit, and purges away earthly lusts, and makes the love of the heart pure and clean, to burn upward toward heaven. This Spirit makes a Christian soul move willingly toward God, in the ways that seemed most unpleasant; it is an active principle within him that cannot rest till it rests in its place of eternal rest and delight in God. And then the Spirit reforms this house, by casting out all these wild beasts that lodged in it, the savage and unruly affections, that domineered in man, this strong man entering in, casts them out. There is much rubbish in old waste palaces, Neh. iv.2. O how much pains it is to cleanse them! Our house is like the house of those nobles, Jer. v.27: "Full of deceit, as a cage is full of birds," and our hearts full of wickedness and vanity, Jer. iv.14. Certainly it will be much labour to get your unclean spirits cast out, that is the grosser and more palpable lusts that reign in you, but when these are gone forth, yet there is much wickedness and uncleanness in the heart, of a more subtle nature, and by long indwelling, almost incorporated and mingled with the soul, and this will not be gotten out with gentle sweeping, as was done, Luke xi.25. That takes away only the uppermost filth that lies loosest, but this must be gotten out by much washing and cleansing, therefore the Spirit enters by blood and water. There are idols in the heart, to which the soul is much engaged; it unites and closes with them (Ezek. xxxvi.) and these must be cleansed and washed out. There is much deceit in the heart, and this lies closest to it and is engrossed into it, and indeed this will take the help of fire to separate it, for that is of the most active nature to separate things of a diverse nature, the Spirit must by these take out your dross. And all this the Spirit will not do alone, but honours you with the fellowship of this work, and therefore you must lay your account that the operation and reformation of this house for so glorious a guest, will be laborious in the mean time. But O how infinitely is that compensated! One hour's fellowship with him alone, when all strangers are cast out, will compensate all, will make all to be forgotten, the pain of mortification will be swallowed up in the pleasure of his inhabitation, "When I shall awake I shall be satisfied with thy likeness." When he shall take up house fully in you, it will satisfy you to the full. In the meantime as he takes the rule and command of your house so for the present he provides for it, the provision of the soul is incumbent on this divine guest, and O how sweet and satisfying is it? O the peace and joy of the Holy Ghost, which are the entertainment that he gives a soul, where he reigns, and hath brought in righteousness, Rom. xiv.17. What a noble train doth the Spirit bring alongst with him to furnish this house? Many rich and costly ornaments hang over it, and adorn it to make it like the king's wife all glorious within; such as the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit (1 Pet. iii.4) which is a far more precious and rich hanging, than the most curious or precious contexture of corruptible things, the clothing of humility, simple in show, but rich in substance, (1 Pet. v.5) which enriches and beautifies the soul that hath it, more than all Solomon's glory could do his person; for "better is it to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than divide the spoil with the proud," Prov. xvi.19. In a word, the Spirit makes all new, puts a new man, a new fashion and image on the soul, which suits the court of heaven, the highest in the world, and is conformed to the noblest and highest pattern, the holiness and beauty of the greatest King. And being lodged within, O what sweet fruits is the Spirit daily bringing forth to feed and delight the soul withal! Gal. v.22, 23. And he is not only a Spirit of sanctification, but of consolation too, and therefore of all the most worthy to be received into our hearts, for he is a bosom comforter, John xiv.16. When there is no friend nor lover without, but a soul in that posture of Heman, Psal. lxxxviii.18, and in that desolate estate of the churches, Lament. i.2, "Among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her," (ver.17) "spreading forth her hands, and none to comfort her," (ver.21) sighing, and none to comfort her. In such a case to have a living and overrunning spring of comfort within, when all external and lower consolations, like winter brooks that dry up in summer, have dried up and disappointed thy expectation, sure this were a happy guest, that could do this. O that we could open our hearts to receive him!